The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Reviewed by Ekta R. Garg

Digging deeper into the craft of writing requires that an author find new ways to express universal emotions. That means finding unique phrases and fresh word choices that will keep readers engaged while at the same time moving the story forward. After all, it doesn’t make sense to write simply for the sake of pretty writing. Those types of sentences do have their place, but you can’t fill an entire book with them.

Dozens of craft books share examples on fresh writing and “show, don’t tell.” Sometimes, though, authors need a resource that they can thumb through, an easy list of options to help them when they’re stuck. That’s where The Emotion Thesaurus comes in.

In the Introduction to the book, authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi say, “All successful novels, no matter what genre, have one thing in common: emotion. It lies at the core of every character’s decision, action, and word, all of which drive the story. Without emotion, a character’s personal journey is pointless.”

To help with that emotion, Ackerman and Puglisi’s book uses various emotions, such as fear or desire, as page headings. Underneath each heading, the authors offer a definition and then descriptions for that emotion. Turn to the page for “Happiness,” for example, and the definition reads, “A state of well-being or joyful contentment.” Under that the first section reads, “Physical Signals,” and some of those signals include “a polite manner” and “an overall visage that glows or radiates.”

The headings make it easy to navigate through the book. Writers don’t need to scan paragraphs of instruction; they just go to the page of the emotion for which they need alternative phrases. When Ackerman and Puglisi named their book a thesaurus, they hit the nail on the head.

Another advantage to the book, albeit a less obvious one at first, is its trim size. Larger pages allow for the book to stay open on a desk with minimal support. Authors will find it easy to navigate the thesaurus for the information they need both with the physical attributes as well as its content.

Newbie writers who need a little more hand-holding as they work on their stories may not be ready for this book. It doesn’t require mastery of the craft, but it also doesn’t spend pages and pages on instruction. The book is meant to be a resource used in conjunction with the writing process, and in that sense it offers readers one of the most interactive writing manuals yet.

I’d highly recommend The Emotional Thesaurus to anyone ready to take their stories to a new level.